A Second Childhood – St Peter’s Revisited

You may well wonder I suddenly seem obsessed with my schooldays, and for the moment, I really am! Having left school, and Africa in one fell swoop at the age of 18 when my parents retired and went to settle in England taking their family with them it had never occurred to me to stay behind on my own.

My sister, Ruth, and I were so miserable, that first UK winter when we did not know a soul and everything felt very alien. But naturally, we soon met and made friends and gradually our new lives took over and we eventually lost close touch with many of our really good friends from our school. The school closed in 1977, and as far as we knew, all records disappeared with the nuns. It is now a Jehovah’s Witness – or is it Seventh Day Adventist? institution. Anyway, our High Church nuns must feel anxious…

Tomorrow, on Wednesday 26th August – over 55 years since I left and last saw many of the girls I am going to a  St Peter’s Diocesan School for Girls, Bulawayo, reunion, to be held near Oxford. What excitement!

I have been having a lovely time poring over old school photographs in rather battered childhood albums, with black and white photos taken with my Box Brownie, all carefully stuck in with coloured photographic corners, with headings written equally carefully, in white ink. John has reproduced many of these, which I have uploaded into the St Peter’s School pics gallery. Another SPUDS old girl and longtime friend, Sally Cathie (nee McAllister) has sent me some too. In spite of all our complaints about the lack of food and the cruelly repressive regime, we were a healthy, cheerful looking bunch, and certainly not obviously underfed!

I am really looking forward to the event. Fortunately we have been asked to have our names/maiden names all written large upon our bosoms, so there should be no excuse for not instantly recognising everybody. 

No doubt we will all have so much to chat about. a number of UK resident old girls are very disappointed at not being able to come so I have promised to report back upon my return.

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Marion Fuller-Sessions

Retired and downsized, and sadly now widowed, but keeping in touch with family and friends and friends far and wide via my blog

19 thoughts on “A Second Childhood – St Peter’s Revisited”

    1. Thanks Bev. The reunion was an amazing experience. The people i’d kept in touch with didn’t seem to have aged much at all, while everyone else seemed to have aged enormously. Odd, isn’t it?

  1. A refreshingly unrepressed looking bevy of beauties! You look as if you are having a whale of a time. Hope your reunion goes well!

    1. Gill, you are quite right! That’s what our parents used to say, and when we complained about being hungry my father used to say he had yet to see a thin St Peter’s girl. Which was true but we claimed we had to fill up on bread. To be fair, what we had was usually okay but not over generous! The nuns’ theory was you should get up from a meal feeling you could eat it all over again i.e. not feeling bloated and overfull…

  2. Thanks for showing us what SPDS was like before I got there, uniform changed a bit, we had to wear awful boaters would have prefer a soft hat. loved the swimming costumes halter neck or strapless, ours were plain black or green and white speedos for the first team. Loved you all in your ball gowns. I’ll have to see if I can find my old picture again.

    1. Lydia, how lovely to see you found the blog! Times do change and it is fascinating to read the different descriptions of life and uniforms as the school progressed. (We hated our felt hats, because we had to have then turned down all the way round. Turning them up was a serious offence! Maybe that’s why they changed to boaters, which couldn’t be turned up!). I was intrigued to hear at the reunion from a girl who arrived my last year, that by the time she went to the school ball they actually went to the hairdresser!

  3. It was wonderful seeing your pictures Marion, I only went to SPDS in 1960, but the names are so familiar from the honours boards and the uniforms bring back so many memories, especially those awful brown felt hats!!

    1. Thank you , Margie. we only just missed each other! Were you a relation of Myrna Mitchell, who was a day girl contemporary of mine – i think she probably left in 1957? We did hate those hats and having to wear the brims down unlike all the other girls’ school in Bulawayo who turned them up at jaunty angles. Did you see Lydia’s comment below? By the time she went to SPUDS they wore boaters. That was a clever solution of the powers that be!

  4. Names of girls in the black and white photos who remain in my memory were Rosemary Lamb (definitely my year) and others a few years older. Trish Bartlett (who I much admired!), Hazel Palmer who also came from Botswana and Barbara White. I wonder where they are now.

    1. Pat, I am so sorry. Your comment passed me by for some reason. Rosemary Lamb lives in the Cape, I’m not quite sure where, but we are in frequent contact with her sister, Erica (now Erica Forbes and not on Facebook!).Erica lives in Kent. Trish Bartlett and Hazel Palmer I don’t know, but Erica told me that Barb White had died quite recently, in Zimbabwe.

      1. Good grief Marion, you’re a mine of information. I’ve just calculated that most of those names are in my dim and distant past ……60 or so years ago as I left St Peter’s at the age of 12. Your blog has stirred some amazing memories. Thank you!

        1. Pat, I caught up with some news and lots of old faces at the reunion Elizabeth Brown, nee Tyrrell, organised last August, and have recently had a lots of pleasure remaking contact with several good friends of long ago, via Facebook! Erica Lamb I’ve never lost touch with, and we see her a lot when we can – we do love rather far apart.

          I’ve plenty more school memories to dredge up in a post or two! It’s amazing, what seemed so normal – even if we didn’t always like them – people are horrified about now!

  5. Would it be possible to share more information about St Peter’s Diocesan School in Bulawayo? I am undertaking some research into the Grahamstown Sisters. Thank you.

    1. I would be very glad to help you, if it’s possible. My contact with the nuns in Bulawayo was a rather long time ago, and not always suitably respectful. One of my friends and contemporaries, who now lives in Canada, might be better able to help you, as her grandparents had lived in Grahamstown and I think had personal contact with the Sisters there.
      However, as I’m sure you understand, I first need some information from you!
      If you could provide me with a bit more information about yourself and the research you are doing, all being well I will happily ask the friend if she would mind if you approached her, and I would help too if I can. Perhaps you could email me personally with this information on marionfs@themarionfsblog.com

      1. I just came acroos this blog.
        Interesting! I was a boarder af SPDS living in what was then Bechuanaland Protectorate and left at the end of 1968 after writing my ‘O’ level exams.
        I wonder where some of my classmates are- Gretchen Gordon, Diane Megginson, Marguerite Farquason?

        1. I left in 1958, which makes me a good ten years older than you! I think the nuns must have left by the time you were there? I can’t help about your
          classmates I’m afraid but I have found several on Facebook.Inevitably there are SPUDS girls all over the world now! There are quite a few in the UK, if that is where you are.
          Very best wishes!

        2. Astonishing! I was just thinking about you.
          I was in your class at St Peters and am now living in Cambridge, England.
          I have kept in touch with Lynette Woollacott who lives in New Zealand and Hilary Dods who is in Cape Town.

  6. I am so glad I have seen and read this blog. So interesting I was at Spuds in the 1970s, a Zambian boarder. I loved it and am still in touch with a couple of the girls.

    1. I am so glad Alison. I loved my time at Spuds too, a long time though before you. I was from Zambia, but live in England now. I’m still in touch with quite a few of my colleagues. We did all seem to make very good friends!
      I have been very quiet on the blog, really since John, my husband, died, but fully hope to start speeding up again.

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